Born and brought up in Delhi, 18-year-old Anita Kaul never thought that her trip to Kashmir will change her life-long perception about the Valley from where Kashmir Pandits left during the outbreak of insurgency two decades ago.
Anita and her family were saved by a Muslim youth when the unprecedented flood hit the Valley. Later, another Muslim family gave them shelter for over a week.
This was for the first time that she along with her family had come to visit her ancestral home in the Jawahar Nagar area of Srinagar city when the floods hit the city.
“We were staying in a hotel near Jawahar Nagar as my parents had sold of the ancestral house when they left Kashmir.
“I always wanted to return to see the place where they were born,” Anita said, as she was entering Srinagar airport to board a flight to New Delhi.
She says, she had heard stories about the killing of Kashmir Pandits by militants that allegedly led to the mass exodus of the community from the Valley, but now she was leaving Kashmir with a change of heart.
“Throughout my life, I held the majority community of Kashmir responsible for our exodus. I used to ask my parents why didn’t they save us then, but today it was a Kashmiri Muslim who saved our life,” said Anita.
Anita’s father Sunil Kaul, who works at a private bank in Delhi, says that he brought his children to Kashmir to show them the real meaning of ‘Kashmiriyat’ and the devastating floods provided them with an opportunity to see and feel the “real Kashmir”.
“My kids are leaving Kashmir with a lesson, a lesson which this unfortunate flood has taught them.
“They now know what the real Kashmir is and why we always love the idea of Kashmiriyat,” Sunil Kaul said.
Sunil who along with his wife and two children arrived in Srinagar on September 5 to attend a marriage function were staying in a hotel near Jawahar Nagar area when the flooding took place.
“It is because of a Muslim young man that we are still alive. He saved us from drowning without caring for his own life.
“It was a Muslim family that provided us shelter and food for all these days. Today we are returning home safely, its again because of a Muslim family,” Kaul said.
At the main gate of the Srinagar Airport, Shameema, a Muslim lady along with her family had come to bid adieu to the Kaul family, said, “When they were brought to our house by the local volunteers we were complete strangers and now when they are leaving it seems that we are connected for ages.”
As the Kaul family moves ahead to board their plane, both the families exchange promises to visit each other soon.